Downtown Springfield

Aerial View of Public Square Area, Springfield, The State Historical Society of Missouri, P0032

Downtown Springfield is dominated by a public square at the intersection of two major cross streets. While for much of its history during the Twentieth Century it was a morass of open pavement, in what looks to be the 1970s it was converted into a park and traffic was routed into a single lane that runs counter-clockwise one-way around the greenspace.

The State Historical Society of Missouri, P0032

It has been the site of numerous important events, such as the funeral of John Charles Frémont’s men after the Battle of Springfield, which came in the aftermath of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, the first major battle of the Civil War west of the Mississippi. Nathaniel Lyon, who was instrumental in the Union’s defense of St. Louis, was killed at the latter battle.

We’ll go counter-clockwise around the square, as well, starting at the northwest side with what is now a State of Missouri office building.

Next up is the former Heer’s Department Store, which like many around the United States, closed earlier this century and has been converted into apartments.

Looking west down what is now down as Park Central West, we see a healthy downtown street with many active businesses.

Perhaps the southwest corner of the square is the least healthy with a couple of abandoned buildings, all with more Modernist fronts or construction.

The southern end of the square is exited via South Avenue, rather appropriately named.

New construction from the 1970s respected the street wall of the square and also matches the height of the other nearby buildings, giving pedestrians a sense of continuity as they walk around. It was unbelievably hot the day these photographs were taken so there were understandably few people on the street.

The northeast corner of the square is well-preserved, as well.

There is one museum, but not a profusion of attractions, which I like. There should be a good mix of uses in the downtown, and not just one or two. I was also impressed that there was little land given over to surface parking lots. Somehow all these businesses seem to thrive without wasted land devoted to surface lots. There are some parking garages.

As you can see below, looking at the northeast corner of the square, which completes our trip around the public space, there was once more traffic lanes in the middle. I think it works much better with just a single lane.

Southwest Corner of the Public Square, c. 1912, The State Historical Society of Missouri,

Heading down South Street there is a thriving and rehabbed commercial and restaurant area.

I believe this photo from a century ago is the same section of street looking north instead of south.

South Street, c. 1902, The State Historical Society of Missouri, P0018-421

I found this building below to be of particular interest due to its unique cornice.

While many of the buildings have lost their ornament, they seem to be identifiable above in the historic photo.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Mark Preston says:

    Wonderful recording for the (history) record, Chris.

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